Fear, uncertainty and doubt

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Commonly called FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt is, variously, an unpleasant sales technique (especially in high technology areas), or a social factor that inhibits progress. This does not suggest that healthy skepticism does not have elements of all three things, but FUD is the case where someone deliberately encourages them for purposes of manipulating opinion. Often, the sales personnel would rather no decision be made at all (see cognitive dissonance) than to make a decision to buy a competitive product.

From a game theory standpoint, FUD users tend to regard the game of sales as a zero-sum game: if they cannot win, no one else must gain any advantage.

Sales

One of the classic examples came from the computer industry, before anyone had ever heard of a personal computer (PC), and IBM was the dominant vendor of computers and a substantial amount of software. When a non-IBM computer was proposed, some, but certainly not all, sales representatives would gain access to executives, especially nontechnical executives, and generate FUD to block the idea of going to a less well known computer. The hidden message was that "no one was ever fired for buying IBM" (i.e., staying within the accepted zone of safety and comfort).

This sales practice continues in many industries, where there is a dominant vendor. In information technology, the name may change, as with "no one was ever fired for buying Microsoft" or "no one was ever fired for buying Cisco". The author of these words hastens to add that IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco are all technically excellent companies that indeed produce reliable products, but their products are not always the best for a particular requirement.

Politics

Politicians and political pressure groups often use FUD to avoid a change. Regardless of one's opinion of the proper means of delivering health care, and, indeed, if universal access to health care is desirable, there have been some brilliant uses of FUD to work against change. When there were proposals, in the Clinton Administration, to change the means of health care financing in the United States, the health insurance industry responded with an extremely effective set of television ads, featuring a couple named "Harry and Louise". Harry and Louise never actually specified a solution, but, for example, would emphasize emotionally loaded phrases such as "bureaucrats" or "government control."